Woken From Sleep By Pain

Quintus, Posthomerica 13.122-133

“….the boundless grief shook from sleep
The young children whose hearts had previously felt no pain.

People were dying all over, mixed among one another.
Some faded away seeing their death alongside dreams. And their Deaths
Took some kind of shrill joy in their pitiful passing.

They were killed by the thousands like pigs lined up
For an endless banquet for friends in a rich man’s home.

The wine that was left over in their cups was mixed with
Bloody gore and there was no one at all who could have carried
An iron weapon out of the slaughter–and so the Trojans were dying.”

οἰμωγὴ δ’ ἀταλάφρονας ἔκβαλεν ὕπνου
νηπιάχους τῶν οὔ πω ἐπίστατο κήδεα θυμός.
Ἄλλοι δ’ ἀμφ’ ἄλλοισιν ἀπέπνεον· οἳ δ’ ἐκέχυντο
πότμον ὁμῶς ὁρόωντες ὀνείρασιν· ἀμφὶ δὲ λυγραὶ
Κῆρες ὀιζυρῶς ἐπεγήθεον ὀλλυμένοισιν.
οἳ δ’ ὥς τ’ ἀφνειοῖο σύες κατὰ δώματ’ ἄνακτος
εἰλαπίνην λαοῖσιν ἀπείριτον ἐντύνοντος
μυρίοι ἐκτείνοντο, λυγρῷ δ’ ἀνεμίσγετο λύθρῳ
οἶνος ἔτ’ ἐν κρητῆρσι λελειμμένος. οὐδέ τις ἦεν
ὅς κεν ἄνευθε φόνοιο φέρε στονόεντα σίδηρον,
οὐδ’ εἴ τις μάλ’ ἄναλκις ἔην. ὀλέκοντο δὲ Τρῶες·

One of a series of designs (the Trojan War) by Jean Foucquet (1415–1485) from which tapestry hangings were woven, probably at Arras in the middle of the 15th century.

Words, Friends, and the Future: Solace and Distraction for the Pain

From the Suda

“Pharmakon [medicine]: conversation, consoling, it comes from pherein [bringing] akos [relief/cure]. But it is also said to come from flowers.”

Φάρμακον: παραμυθία, ὁμιλία, εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ φέρειν τὴν ἄκεσιν: εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθέων

Euripides, Helen 698-699

“if you find good luck in the time that is left
Perhaps it will be solace for the things in the past”

εἰ καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ τῆς τύχης εὐδαίμονος
τύχοιτε, πρὸς τὰ πρόσθεν ἀρκέσειεν ἄν.

Basil, Letter 131

“Since we both need consolation, may we be solace to one another.”

ἐπεὶ οὖν ἀμφότεροι χρῄζομεν παρακλήσεως, ἀλλήλοις γενώμεθα παραμυθία

Letter 302

“Since he has left you a memory of his particular virtue, believe that this is a sufficient solace for your pain.”

Ἐπεὶ οὖν κατέλιπέ σοι τὴν μνήμην τῆς οἰκείας αὐτοῦ4ἀρετῆς, ἀρκοῦσαν νόμιζε ἔχειν παραμυθίαν τοῦ πάθους.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9

“If you want a private passage at hand to soothe your heart, the knowledge of the world around you will give you some solace at death, the world you leave and the kind of people your soul will no longer be associated with…..”

Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιωτικὸν παράπηγμα ἁψικάρδιον ἐθέλεις, μάλιστά σε εὔκολον πρὸς τὸν θάνατον ποιήσει ἡ ἐπίστασις ἡ ἐπὶ τὰ ὑποκείμενα, ὧν μέλλεις ἀφίστασθαι, καὶ μεθ᾿ οἵων ἠθῶν οὐκέτι ἔσται ἡ <σὴ ψυχὴ> συμπεφυρμένη…

Thucydides, book 5

“Hope is indeed a comfort in danger: it may harm people who use it from abundance it does not destroy them. But for those who risk everything on one chance—since hope is expensive by nature—they will only know her nature when they suffer…”

Ἐλπὶς δέ, κινδύνῳ παραμύθιον οὖσα, τοὺς μὲν ἀπὸ περιουσίας χρωμένους αὐτῇ, κἂν βλάψῃ, οὐ καθεῖλε, τοῖς δὲ ἐς ἅπαν τὸ ὑπάρχον ἀναρριπτοῦσι (δάπανος γὰρ φύσει) ἅμα τε γιγνώσκεται σφαλέντων…

Plutarch, Dion, 53

“…for whom daily feasts and distractions provide are a consolation for their labors and risks.”

οἷς αἱ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν πλησμοναὶ καὶ ἀπολαύσεις παραμυθία τῶν πόνων καὶ τῶν κινδύνων εἰσίν

This last bit reminds me of Thetis’ words to Achilles (24.128-132)

“My child, how long will you consume your heart
Grieving and mourning, thinking little of food
Or of sleep? It is good too to join a woman in love—
For you will not live with me long, but already
Death and strong fate loom around you.”

τέκνον ἐμὸν τέο μέχρις ὀδυρόμενος καὶ ἀχεύων
σὴν ἔδεαι κραδίην μεμνημένος οὔτέ τι σίτου
οὔτ’ εὐνῆς; ἀγαθὸν δὲ γυναικί περ ἐν φιλότητι
μίσγεσθ’· οὐ γάρ μοι δηρὸν βέῃ, ἀλλά τοι ἤδη
ἄγχι παρέστηκεν θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Young Woman Contemplating Two Embracing Children (1861)

Some Proverbs from Arsenius, Paroemiographer

“Only words [reason] is medicine for grief”

Λόγος μέν ἐστι φάρμακον λύπης μόνος.

“Conversation [ or ‘reason’] is the doctor for suffering in the soul”

Λόγος ἰατρὸς τοῦ κατὰ ψυχὴν πάθους.

Euripides, fr. 1079

“Mortals have no other medicine for pain
Like the advice of a good man, a friend
Who has experience with this sickness.
A man who troubles then calms his thoughts with drinking,
Finds immediate pleasure, but laments twice as much later on.”

Οὐκ ἔστι λύπης ἄλλο φάρμακον βροτοῖς
ὡς ἀνδρὸς ἐσθλοῦ καὶ φίλου παραίνεσις.
ὅστις δὲ ταύτῃ τῇ νόσῳ ξυνὼν ἀνὴρ
μέθῃ ταράσσει καὶ γαληνίζει φρένα,
παραυτίχ’ ἡσθεὶς ὕστερον στένει διπλᾶ.

Menander (fr. 591 K.).

“The man who is sick in the body needs a doctor;
someone who is sick in the mind needs a friend
For a well-meaning friend knows how to treat grief.”

Τῷ μὲν τὸ σῶμα † διατεθειμένῳ κακῶς
χρεία ‘στ’ ἰατροῦ, τῷ δὲ τὴν ψυχὴν φίλου·
λύπην γὰρ εὔνους οἶδε θεραπεύειν φίλος.

Attributed to Socrates (in Stobaeus)

“The sick need doctors; the unlucky need encouragement from friends.”

Τοῖς μὲν νοσοῦσιν ἰατρούς, τοῖς δ’ ἀτυχοῦσι φίλους δεῖ παραινεῖν.

Well, He Just Can’t Wait To Be King

Odysseus on his geras, 11.174–176:

“Tell me of the father and son I left behind,
does my geras still belong to them or does some other man
already have it because they think I will not come home?”

εἰπὲ δέ μοι πατρός τε καὶ υἱέος, ὃν κατέλειπον,
ἢ ἔτι πὰρ κείνοισιν ἐμὸν γέρας, ἦέ τις ἤδη
ἀνδρῶν ἄλλος ἔχει, ἐμὲ δ’ οὐκέτι φασὶ νέεσθαι.

From Beekes 2010

geras

Telemachus on Eurymakhos, 15.518–522:

“… Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
to marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.”

Εὐρύμαχον, Πολύβοιο δαΐφρονος ἀγλαὸν υἱόν,
τὸν νῦν ἶσα θεῷ ᾿Ιθακήσιοι εἰσορόωσι·
καὶ γὰρ πολλὸν ἄριστος ἀνὴρ μέμονέν τε μάλιστα
μητέρ’ ἐμὴν γαμέειν καὶ ᾿Οδυσσῆος γέρας ἕξειν.”

Antinoos on kingship, 1.383–387:

“Then Antinoos, the son of Eupeithes, answered him,
“Telemachus, the gods themselves have taught you
to be a big speaker and to address us boldly.
May Zeus never make you king in sea-girt Ithaca
which is your inheritance by birth.”

τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ ᾿Αντίνοος προσέφη, Εὐπείθεος υἱός·
“Τηλέμαχ’, ἦ μάλα δή σε διδάσκουσιν θεοὶ αὐτοὶ
ὑψαγόρην τ’ ἔμεναι καὶ θαρσαλέως ἀγορεύειν.
μὴ σέ γ’ ἐν ἀμφιάλῳ ᾿Ιθάκῃ βασιλῆα Κρονίων
ποιήσειεν, ὅ τοι γενεῇ πατρώϊόν ἐστιν.”

Telemachus on his geras, 1.388–398:

“Antinoos, even if you are annoyed at whatever I say,
I would still pray to obtain this should Zeus grant it.
Do you really think that this is the worst thing among people?
To be king is not at all bad. A king’s house grows rich quickly
and he is more honored himself. But, certainly, there are other kings of the Achaeans, too, many on sea-girt Ithaka, young and old,
who might have this right, since shining Odysseus is dead.
But I will be master of my household and my servants,
the ones shining Odysseus obtained for me.”

“᾿Αντίνο’, εἴ πέρ μοι καὶ ἀγάσσεαι ὅττι κεν εἴπω,
καί κεν τοῦτ’ ἐθέλοιμι Διός γε διδόντος ἀρέσθαι.
ἦ φῂς τοῦτο κάκιστον ἐν ἀνθρώποισι τετύχθαι;
οὐ μὲν γάρ τι κακὸν βασιλευέμεν· αἶψά τέ οἱ δῶ
ἀφνειὸν πέλεται καὶ τιμηέστερος αὐτός.
ἀλλ’ ἦ τοι βασιλῆες ᾿Αχαιῶν εἰσὶ καὶ ἄλλοι
πολλοὶ ἐν ἀμφιάλῳ ᾿Ιθάκῃ, νέοι ἠδὲ παλαιοί,
τῶν κέν τις τόδ’ ἔχῃσιν, ἐπεὶ θάνε δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν οἴκοιο ἄναξ ἔσομ’ ἡμετέροιο
καὶ δμώων, οὕς μοι ληΐσσατο δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς.”

Some things to read

Elton Barker. Entering the Agôn: Dissent and Authority in Homer, Historiography and Tragedy. Oxford, 2009.

Colleen Chaston. “Three Models of Authority in the “Odyssey”.” CW 96 (2002) 3-19.

J. Halverson. “The Succession Issue in the Odyssey.” Greece and Rome 33 (1986) 119–28.

Johannes Haubold. Homer’s People: Epic Poetry and Social Formation. Cambridge: 2000.

Daniel Silvermintz. “Unravelling the Shroud for Laertes and Weaving the Fabric of the City: Kingship and Politics in Homer’s Odyssey.” Polis 21 (2004) 26-41.

Hesiod: Cure for the Blues

Hesiod, Theogony 94-103.

“It is because of the Muses and far-shooting Apollo
Men on the earth are singers and players of the lyre,
And because of Zeus, they are kings. Whomever the Muses
Love is blessed: a sweet sound flows from his mouth.
Even if some fresh concern worries a man’s spirit,
And the affliction desiccates his heart, just let some singer,
the Muses’ servant, celebrate in song the glories of folks
From olden times and the blessed Olympian gods,
That man quickly forgets his blues, does not remember his cares–
Just like that, the Muses’ gifts change his disposition.”

ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος
ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί,
ἐκ δὲ Διὸς βασιλῆες: ὃ δ᾽ ὄλβιος, ὅντινα Μοῦσαι
φίλωνται: γλυκερή οἱ ἀπὸ στόματος ῥέει αὐδή.
εἰ γάρ τις καὶ πένθος ἔχων νεοκηδέι θυμῷ
ἄζηται κραδίην ἀκαχήμενος, αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς
Μουσάων θεράπων κλέἱα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων
ὑμνήσῃ μάκαράς τε θεούς, οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν,
αἶψ᾽ ὅ γε δυσφροσυνέων ἐπιλήθεται οὐδέ τι κηδέων
μέμνηται: ταχέως δὲ παρέτραπε δῶρα θεάων.

B.B. King with his lyre-substitute, the guitar.
Image: Paul Natkin/Getty.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Odysseus’s Sister and Names for In-Laws

We have posted before about Odysseus’ sister Ktimene. She is mentioned by the swineherd Eumaios but never by Odysseus. The scholia connect her to one of Odysseus’ companions. The evidence for this seems to be the fact that Ktimene was sent to Same for marriage (where Eurylochus is from) and a kinship term used for him by Odysseus. Also of interest, according to the scholion, Odysseus may have had more sisters.

Homer, Odyssey 15.364-41

Strong Ktimenê, the youngest of the children she bore.
I was raised with her, and she honored me little less.
But when we both made it to much-praised youth,
They gave her to Samê and received much in return
But she gave me a cloak, tunic and clothing
Dressing me finely and give me sandals for my feet
And sent me to the field. But she loved me more in her heart.

οὕνεκά μ’ αὐτὴ θρέψεν ἅμα Κτιμένῃ τανυπέπλῳ
θυγατέρ’ ἰφθίμῃ, τὴν ὁπλοτάτην τέκε παίδων·
τῇ ὁμοῦ ἐτρεφόμην, ὀλίγον δέ τί μ’ ἧσσον ἐτίμα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ἥβην πολυήρατον ἱκόμεθ’ ἄμφω,
τὴν μὲν ἔπειτα Σάμηνδ’ ἔδοσαν καὶ μυρί’ ἕλοντο,
αὐτὰρ ἐμὲ χλαῖνάν τε χιτῶνά τε εἵματ’ ἐκείνη
καλὰ μάλ’ ἀμφιέσασα ποσίν θ’ ὑποδήματα δοῦσα
ἀγρόνδε προΐαλλε· φίλει δέ με κηρόθι μᾶλλον.

Schol. BW ad Od. 15.364 ex

“Ktimenê is the proper name of Odysseus’ sister, whom Eurylochus is supposed to have married.”

Κτιμένη] Κτιμένη κυρίως ἐκαλεῖτο ἡ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀδελφὴ, ἧς
ὁ Εὐρύλοχος ὑπονοεῖται ἀνήρ. λέγει γὰρ “καὶ πηῷ περ ἐόντι μάλα
σχεδόν” (κ, 441.). B.Q.

“She bore the youngest of the children”: [this means] of the female children. For his father only had Odysseus [for a son]. There were more sisters of Odysseus.”

ὁπλοτάτην τέκε παίδων] θηλειῶν γοῦν. μόνον δ’ αὖτ’ ᾿Οδυσσέα πατὴρ τέκε (π, 119.). καὶ πλείους οὖν αἱ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀδελφαί. Q.

Homer, Odyssey 10.438-442

“So he spoke, and I was turning over in my thoughts
As I began to draw the sharp-edged sword next to my thick thigh,
Whether I should cut off his head and drive him to the ground
Even though he really was my relative. But our companions
Were restraining me with gentle words from all sides.”

ὣς ἔφατ’, αὐτὰρ ἐγώ γε μετὰ φρεσὶ μερμήριξα,
σπασσάμενος τανύηκες ἄορ παχέος παρὰ μηροῦ,
τῷ οἱ ἀποτμήξας κεφαλὴν οὖδάσδε πελάσσαι,
καὶ πηῷ περ ἐόντι μάλα σχεδόν· ἀλλά μ’ ἑταῖροι
μειλιχίοισ’ ἐπέεσσιν ἐρήτυον ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος·

Schol. QVB ad Od 10.441 ex

Q “Instead of the genitive here, “even though he was an in-law”.

V. “Relative”

QV For he married Odysseus’ sister Ktimene.
B “even though he was my brother-in-law by my sister Ktimenê.”

καὶ πηῷ] ἀντὶ τοῦ, καὶ πηοῦ περ ἐόντος. Q. συγγενεῖ. V.
Κτιμένην γὰρ γεγαμήκει τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀδελφήν. Q.V. γαμβρῷ
μοι ὄντι ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδελφῇ Κτιμένῃ. B.

Suda

“Pêos: A relative by marriage. In-law. Also, “in-lawness” [Pêosunê], relation-by-marriage. There is also Pêôn [genitive plural], for “of relatives-by-marriage. Homer has: “relatives and friends” [Il. 3.163]

Πηός: ὁ κατ’ ἐπιγαμίαν συγγενής. καὶ Πηοσύνη, ἡ συγγαμβρία.
καὶ Πηῶν, τῶν συγγενῶν. ῞Ομηρος· πηούς τε φίλους τε.

Etymologicum Gudianum

“…There is a difference between in-law and friend. People who have no connection to you by birth are friends. In-laws are related to you through marriage.”

διαφέρει δὲ πηὸς φίλου· φίλοι μὲν λέγονται οἱ μηδὲν τῷ γένει προσήκοντες·  πηοὶ δὲ οἱ κατ’ ἐπιγαμίαν συγγενεῖς.

peos

For a beautiful narrative re-imagining of the life of Ktimene, see Mary Ebbot’s “Seeking Odysseus’ Sister”

Not Without Glory

Homer, Iliad 22.300-305

“But now an evil death is indeed near me, not far off
And unavoidable. Truly, my life was once dear to Zeus’s heart
And Zeus’ son the far-shooter, those two who previously
Used to defend me. But now fate has overtaken me in its turn.
May I not die without a struggle, at least, and without glory,
But after doing something important for people in the future to learn”

νῦν δὲ δὴ ἐγγύθι μοι θάνατος κακός, οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἄνευθεν,
οὐδ’ ἀλέη· ἦ γάρ ῥα πάλαι τό γε φίλτερον ἦεν
Ζηνί τε καὶ Διὸς υἷι ἑκηβόλῳ, οἵ με πάρος γε
πρόφρονες εἰρύατο· νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.

Felice Giani, Drawing, Hector’s Farewell (Addio di Ettore a Andromaca)

Silence of Oak and Stone

Homer, Il. 22.126-129 [Hektor talking to himself about facing Achilles]

“There’s no way from oak nor stone
To sweet-talk him, the way that a young woman and a young man
As a young man and a young woman sweet talk one another.”

οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης
τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι, ἅ τε παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε
παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ’ ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιιν.

Schol. Ad Il. 22.126 bT

”There’s no way from oak or stone to sweet-talk him” to recount a ridiculous ancient saying; it is either from the generation of humans who were in the mountains, or it is because early people said they were ash-born or from the stones of Deukalion. Or it is about providing oracles, since Dodona is an oak and Pytho was a stone. Or it means to speak uselessly, coming from the leaves around trees and the waves around stones. Or it is not possible for him to describe the beginning of the human race”

<οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν> ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης / τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι: ληρώδεις ἀρχαιολογίας διηγεῖσθαι, ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ τὸ παλαιὸν ὀρεινόμων ὄντων τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐκεῖσε τίκτεσθαι ἢ ἐπεὶ μελιηγενεῖς λέγονται οἱ πρώην ἄνδρες καὶ <λαοὶ> ἀπὸ τῶν λίθων Δευκαλίωνος.  ἢ χρησμοὺς διηγεῖσθαι (Δωδώνη γὰρ δρῦς, πέτρα δὲ Πυθών). ἢ περιττολογεῖν, ἀπὸ τῶν περὶ τὰς δρῦς φύλλων καὶ περὶ τὰς πέτρας κυμάτων. ἢ οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτῷ τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ γένους διηγεῖσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων. 

from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:There_are_stones…in_stone_oak,)_-_panoramio.jpg

The Rumble of War

Homer, Iliad 4.440-456

Ares whipped up the Trojans, Athena the Achaeans,
and with her were Terror, Rout, and ravenous Strife,
the sister-comrade of man-murdering Ares.
Strife is small when she first lifts her head. But then
her head towers into heaven, and she roams the earth.
And now she’s tossed the same warring spirit into two armies,
and she moves through the crush of men, multiplying their woes.

When the Trojans and Achaeans came together,
Shields and spears and bronze-armored men collided.
Bossed shields clanged against bossed shields.
There men cried and men exulted.
Men killed and men were killed.
And the earth flowed with blood.

Just as when swollen rivers rush down a mountain,
their mighty waters, torrents from huge springs,
hurl themselves together where they meet,
and some shepherd in the mountain hears the distant rumble–
just so, when the armies met in battle,
came the shouts and exertions of men.

ὄρσε δὲ τοὺς μὲν Ἄρης, τοὺς δὲ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη
Δεῖμός τʼ ἠδὲ Φόβος καὶ Ἔρις ἄμοτον μεμαυῖα,
Ἄρεος ἀνδροφόνοιο κασιγνήτη ἑτάρη τε,
ἥ τʼ ὀλίγη μὲν πρῶτα κορύσσεται, αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
οὐρανῷ ἐστήριξε κάρη καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ βαίνει·
ἥ σφιν καὶ τότε νεῖκος ὁμοίϊον ἔμβαλε μέσσῳ
ἐρχομένη καθʼ ὅμιλον ὀφέλλουσα στόνον ἀνδρῶν.

οἳ δʼ ὅτε δή ῥʼ ἐς χῶρον ἕνα ξυνιόντες ἵκοντο,
σύν ῥʼ ἔβαλον ῥινούς, σὺν δʼ ἔγχεα καὶ μένεʼ ἀνδρῶν
χαλκεοθωρήκων· ἀτὰρ ἀσπίδες ὀμφαλόεσσαι
ἔπληντʼ ἀλλήλῃσι, πολὺς δʼ ὀρυμαγδὸς ὀρώρει.
ἔνθα δʼ ἅμʼ οἰμωγή τε καὶ εὐχωλὴ πέλεν ἀνδρῶν
ὀλλύντων τε καὶ ὀλλυμένων, ῥέε δʼ αἵματι γαῖα.

ὡς δʼ ὅτε χείμαρροι ποταμοὶ κατʼ ὄρεσφι ῥέοντες
ἐς μισγάγκειαν συμβάλλετον ὄβριμον ὕδωρ
κρουνῶν ἐκ μεγάλων κοίλης ἔντοσθε χαράδρης,
τῶν δέ τε τηλόσε δοῦπον ἐν οὔρεσιν ἔκλυε ποιμήν·
ὣς τῶν μισγομένων γένετο ἰαχή τε πόνος τε.

Russian war games

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Fire, Sex, and Children Weakened the Human Race: Some Thoughts for February

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 5.1011-1018

“Then, when they had procured shelter, clothing and fire
And woman joined man in one [home]
They were known, they saw their own children born
And the race of man first began to grow weak.
For fire cared for them so that quaking bodies
Could no longer endure the cold under the roof of the sky;
Venus whittled down their strength and children
Easily broke their parents’ proud character with their charms.”

Roman-Lady-of-Leisure-290x300
As usual, the start of all evil…

Inde casas postquam ac pellis ignemque pararunt
et mulier coniuncta viro concessit in unum
* * *
cognita sunt, prolemque ex se videre creatam,
tum genus humanum primum mollescere coepit.
ignis enim curavit, ut alsia corpora frigus
non ita iam possent caeli sub tegmine ferre,
et Venus inminuit viris puerique parentum
blanditiis facile ingenium fregere superbum.

Fish-Eaters, Meat-Eaters and Bread: Dehumanizing Structures in the Odyssey

Homer, Odyssey 8.221-222

“I say that I am much better than the rest,
However so many mortals now eat bread on the earth.”

τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ἐμέ φημι πολὺ προφερέστερον εἶναι,
ὅσσοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες.

Schol. B ad Od. 8.222 ex

“Who eat bread…” He says this because there are some races who don’t eat bread. Indeed, some are called locust eaters and fish-easters, like the Skythian race and the Massagetae are called meat-eaters. Some of the locust-eaters, after seeing bread, used to believe it was shit.”

σῖτον ἔδοντες] εἶπε τοῦτο διά τινα γένη, οἵτινες οὐκ ἤσθιον σῖτον. διὸ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι τινὲς καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο, ὡς καὶ τὸ Σκυθικὸν καὶ Μασσαγετικὸν κρεοφάγοι καλοῦνται. τινὲς γὰρ τῶν ἀκριδοφάγων ἰδόντες ἄρτον κόπρον εἶναι ἐνόμιζον. B.

Cf. Schol. T ad 16.784

“The poet also does not show heroes eating fish or birds, but still Odysseus’ companions do try to under compulsion. Generally, the poet avoids this kind of habit because of its triviality, but he has [heroes] eat roasted meat.”

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἰχθύσι χρωμένους εἰσήγαγεν ἢ ὄρνισιν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως δι’ ἀνάγκην καὶ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἐπεχείρουν οἱ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἑταῖροι (cf. δ 368. μ 331)· καθόλου γὰρ τὴν τοιαύτην χρῆσιν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτήσατο, κρέασι δὲ ὀπτοῖς χρῆσθαι αὐτούς φησιν.

Eusth. Comm. I Ad Hom. Od. 1.293

“Those who eat grain/bread.” This is perhaps said regarding the difference of other mortals who are not these kind of people—the kind of sort the story claims that the long-lived Aethiopians are too. These people, after they saw bread, compared it to shit. There were also those who lived from eating locusts and others who lived off fish. For this reason they are called locust-eaters and fish eaters. The Skythian race and the Masssegetic people who live primarily off meat do not wish to eat grain.”

Τὸ δὲ σῖτον ἔδοντες, πρὸς διαστολὴν ἴσως ἐῤῥέθη ἑτέρων βροτῶν μὴ τοιούτων. ὁποίους καὶ τοὺς μακροβίους Αἰθίοπας ἡ ἱστορία φησίν. οἳ ἄρτον ἰδόντες κόπρῳ αὐτὸν εἴκασαν. ἦσαν δὲ καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἀκρίδων ζῶντες καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἰχθύων. οἳ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι διατοῦτο καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο. τὸ δὲ Σκυθικὸν φῦλον καὶ τὸ Μασσαγετικὸν κρέασι διοικονομούμενον οὐδ’ αὐτὸ ἐθέλει σιτοφαγεῖν.

Strabo, Geographica 16.4.12

“In a close land to [the Aethiopians] are people darker-skinned than the rest and shorter and the shortest-lived, the locust-eaters. They rarely see more than forty years because their flesh is rife with parasites. They live on locusts who arrive in the spring carried by the strong winds that blow into these places. After throwing burning logs into trenches and kindling them a little, they overshadow the locusts with smoke and they call. They pound them together with salt and use them as cakes for their food.”

Πλησιόχωροι δὲ τούτοις εἰσὶ μελανώτεροί τε τῶν ἄλλων καὶ βραχύτεροι καὶ βραχυβιώτατοι ἀκριδοφάγοι· τὰ γὰρ τετταράκοντα ἔτη σπανίως ὑπερτιθέασιν, ἀπο-
θηριουμένης αὐτῶν τῆς σαρκός· ζῶσι δ’ ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων, ἃς οἱ ἐαρινοὶ λίβες καὶ ζέφυροι πνέοντες μεγάλοι συνελαύνουσιν εἰς τοὺς τόπους τούτους· ἐν ταῖς χα-ράδραις δὲ ἐμβαλόντες ὕλην καπνώδη καὶ ὑφάψαντες μικρὸν … ὑπερπετάμεναι γὰρ τὸν καπνὸν σκοτοῦνται καὶ πίπτουσι· συγκόψαντες δ’ αὐτὰς μεθ’ ἁλμυρίδος μάζας ποιοῦνται καὶ χρῶνται.

Strabo’s passage is, from a modern perspective, fairly racist (and more so even than the Eustathius). I don’t believe that the Odyssey’s formulaic line carries the same force, however. For Homer, people who eat bread are those who cultivate the earth and have to work (they don’t live easy lives like the gods). People who don’t eat the fruit of the earth are marauders and monsters.

The Odyssey’s ethnographic frame develops structures that insist to be fully human, one must (1) live in a city and (2) have recognizable laws and institutions, and (3) cultivate the earth. Creatures who don’t do these things are marginalized and dehumanized either through their behavior (the suitors and sailors) or through actual deformity (the Cyclopes, Kikones, and, well, pretty much most of the women in the poem). So, while the epic itself is not clearly racist in the modern sense, it supplies and deploys frameworks by which other human beings may be marginalized and dehumanized.

 

Lovis Corinth “Odysseus Fighting the Beggar” 1903